Today I am excited to feature author Jessica Strassner on my blog.
Below is an excerpt from her upcoming novel, One of the Guys – due out November 21st.
Kate pushed the doorbell. She let out a shaky breath as the chimes echoed majestically inside the house. Like she and Jackson had discussed, she waited a second, and then rang the doorbell a second time. Then she tried the doorknob and pushed the door open. She walked in and stepped aside, closing the door behind Lucy, who was looking around in bewilderment at the bare, seemingly empty house.
Kate cautiously chanced a glance upwards and saw everyone standing in the loft, silently looking down over the railing. Lucy’s and Jackson’s parents were up there, along with Maggie and Mark. There were some other family members that Kate recognized. The guys were up there, too. Chris tilted his head away from his camera to smile down at her. Next to him, Max stood with his arms folded across his chest, grinning with excitement. Behind him, Kevin raised his hand in a silent, but obviously excited, greeting. She smiled up at them. And slowly, quietly, Jackson approached them from the kitchen.
Lucy saw him before Kate did and gasped. Kate’s eyes snapped away from Kevin’s and she focused her attention on Lucy and Jackson. He’d already lowered himself down onto one knee and was reaching for her hand. Kate glanced up again, this time at Chris, shooting away with his camera. Suddenly, she realized that she was going to be frozen forever in Lucy and Jackson’s engagement photos if she didn’t hurry up and get out of the way.
Kate stepped forward to take the bottle of wine from Lucy. Lucy thrust the bottle into Kate’s outstretched hand without even casting a backwards glance. Kate retreated meekly, only half-hearing Jackson’s proposal as tears of happiness filled her eyes. She made her way up the stairs, hugging the bottle of wine and the orchid to her chest. Kevin and Max made room for her at the railing, so she could look down and watch as Jackson completed his proposal.
Jackson slipped the ring on Lucy’s finger, they kissed, and everyone in the loft showered them with confetti and streamers. Max and Kevin each brandished two cans of silly string. They squirted the newly engaged couple as the guests poured down the stairs to congratulate them. The huge sliding glass doors were opened, people started pulling platters of food out of the fridge, and someone turned on a stereo that was sitting on the floor in the living room.
Wiping her eyes, she turned to smile at Chris, one of the last guests still standing in the loft with her. He was so busy with his camera that he didn’t even realize that he’d brushed right past her as he headed downstairs. He paused to lean over the railing, study the shots on his camera, and then continue shooting. He was so intent on his job, that he didn’t look back or look around for her. Now she was standing alone in the loft with Lucy’s orchid and the bottle of wine.
Downstairs, Kate placed the flower pot in the middle of the kitchen counter, running her hands along the smooth, cold marble. She placed the bottle of wine in the refrigerator and then looked around. Lucy and Jackson were still surrounded by people. Chris was wandering around with his camera glued to his face. She decided to head out onto the back deck.
Several coolers were lined up against the railing, filled with beers and sodas. She helped herself to a beer, popped the top, and looked around as she took her first sip. She was surprised to see Max talking to some tall, leggy blonde that she didn’t recognize. The girl was beautiful to begin with, but she was wearing an impossibly tight pair of jeans and knee-high boots with huge heels that made her almost taller than Max. The Amazon woman was wearing a cropped red sweater that showed off her ample (and probably fake, Kate guessed) bust and enviously flat stomach. Her bright red lips parted as she laughed at something Max said and Kate felt a tinge of jealousy. They were flirting. And she was watching. She felt herself getting angry.
A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. “Hey,” Kevin said, turning her around and pulling her into a hug. “That was quite the entrance. Congrats on pulling that off.”
“Thanks,” Kate said, grateful for the diversion. She took a long gulp of beer. Over the top of the can, she could see Kevin’s eyes flicker behind her, in the direction of Max and the supermodel. She glanced over her shoulder. “Who the heck is that?” she asked.
“That’s some girl Jackson knows through work. We were talking to her earlier. I forget her name. Sounds like a stripper name. I don’t remember.”
“How do you forget a girl like that?” Kate asked.
“Kind of an idiot. Crazy rich, though. Her family owns the Davenport Hotels. So I guess, in a way, Jackson kind of works for her.”
Kate nodded at Kevin’s description. She remembered that Julia had organized the girl’s 21st birthday bash a few years ago. Her elaborate celebration had brought more of a profit to Bride Ideas than some of the bigger weddings Kate and Julia had put together.
Kevin shrugged. “But Max seems to like her.”
Kate guzzled more beer and groaned inwardly as Chris sauntered up to Max and the girl. He introduced himself to her, said something funny, and she tossed her hair, laughing. Chris gestured with his camera and she and Max posed for a few photos. Kate scowled as Max slipped his arm around the girl’s waist. She placed one hand on her jutted-out hip, angling herself towards the camera. Kate couldn’t help snickering at the girl’s camera-ready poses.
Chris shook the girl’s hand again and then turned towards Kate and Kevin. He held up his camera and Kevin’s arm landed squarely around Kate’s shoulders. “I think blondie over there likes Max,” Chris said, snapping a couple pictures of Kate and Kevin. “C’mon, smile.”
Kevin squeezed her shoulder and she straightened up, tilting her head towards Kevin’s and pasting a smile on her face. Chris snapped a few more pictures and before Kate could even say anything, he slipped away to take more photos of the guests. Kate turned around to see what Max and the blonde were up to, but they’d disappeared. She turned back around and Kevin had started talking with Mark, Lucy’s brother-in-law. Alone and with no one to talk to, Kate headed back over to the coolers. She helped herself to another beer and then hopped up onto the railing to people-watch. She recognized some of Lucy and Jackson’s family members, but she wasn’t in any mood to make small talk with people whose names she didn’t remember.
So she people-watched and drank beer. After beer. After beer. After beer.
Occasionally, Lucy and Jackson would appear on the deck and make the rounds, talking to their guests. They were always together, side by side. They were smiling. No, not just smiling; they were beaming. Lucy was glowing with pride and happiness. Why? Kate thought. Like she didn’t know they would end up together eventually? Kate had suspected this would happen when they had first gotten back together. For Lucy to get reacquainted with Jackson behind her boyfriend’s back… Lucy wouldn’t just cheat on someone to do it and get away with it. Lucy and Jackson had gotten back together because they were really in love. They were meant to be together.
This thought should have made Kate happy for her friends. Things had all worked out for them, the way they were probably supposed to happen originally. Instead, it kind of soured Kate’s mood. While Lucy was walking around on the arm of her new fiancé, Kate was sitting on a railing by herself, while her only two recent dating prospects were wandering around the party without her.
Jessica Strassner was born in Pittsburgh, PA. She recently moved to Washington, DC. She likes just about any kind of music and loves going to concerts, even though she has no musical ability and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. If she’s writing, the music is up loud! Strassner’s 3rd novel, One of the Guys, (a “semi-sequel” to her Amazon bestseller The One Who Got Away) will be available on Amazon on November 21, 2012.